We talk to Evolution Studios Art director Simon O’Brien about MotorStorm and PS4’s DRIVECLUB…
Simon O’Brien is Art Director at Evolution Studios and has given us spectacular, jaw-dropping racing games such as MotorStorm Apocalypse. Apocalypse is set in a broken, ripped apart city with an earthquake constantly creating mayhem. Simon totally pushed the boundaries to the limit when producing this title by creating monumental mass devastation never before seen in a racing game. Along with subterranean racing, driving on roof tops and collapsing skyscrapers, Apocalypse was the new breed of racer Simon had envisoned.
Now with PlayStation 4 around the corner, who better to speak to at Evolution Studios than the main man himself? We had the great privilege of hooking up with Simon and he gave us a great insight into his wonderful world as an Art Director and a glimpse into the PS4’s DRIVECLUB…
What games are you playing at home?
I’m catching up on some of the big games from last year that I haven’t found time to play until now.
I’m playing Batman: Arkham City and I’m really enjoying it. It’s a brilliantly immersive world and it makes you feel like a truly capable superhero. I’m also playing The Walking Dead, and while it’s a completely different experience, I’m enjoying it just as much as Batman. The characters are really compelling and the relationships I’ve built with them are providing some difficult emotional choices. It’s rare for a game to be able to evoke such strong emotions, but Telltale have done it beautifully.
Which of your games are you most proud of?
It has to be MotorStorm: Apocalypse, just for the sheer spectacle and scale of ambition that we actually pulled off.
We challenged ourselves to take MotorStorm to the next level, not only by adding more car classes and more superbly balanced tracks with multiple-choice routes, but by shaking it all up with the addition of a collapsing city. It’s astonishing that we managed to pull it off and even more so that we brought it all to life in stereoscopic 3D – which I poured a lot of effort into in particular. Achieving such a high level of quality exceeded even our own expectations, so it’s definitely the game I’m most proud of.
Is there a game of a different genre that you wish you could have worked on?
Dishonored from Arkane. I recently sat in on Sebastien Mitton’s talk at GDC and he showed some of the lovely concept work from the game – a real blend of historical and oppressive imagery with such a distinct and solid visual style. It was the result of a lot of historical reference as well photo reference trips from London and Edinburgh, and it clearly carries into the game very well.
Not to mention that it’s a great game to play. It’s open play approach just makes you want to go back and play every scenario ten times over, to explore every different possibility.
Regarding trophies in a game, who comes up with the ideas for these?
Ultimately it’s the game design team that has this responsibility, but everyone at the studio is always invited to share ideas and often there are Trophies that emerge from us playing the game a lot during development.
An example that springs to mind is the “Air Assault” Trophy from MotorStorm Apocalypse. It was born from playing the game in development, and particularly from the fact that races with a “Bikes versus ATV” theme were so much fun; particularly on one of the tracks that takes place across the tops of a series of collapsing skyscrapers. Every time we played, the race would quickly descend into a free for all with everyone intent on knocking each other off of the rooftops. It was hilarious, and it was very much the pinnacle of the “survival racing” approach that we were aiming for, so it made for a great Trophy in the game.
From what we have seen of DRIVECLUB on the PS4 it looks spectacular, is there anything you can tell us about this new breed of racing game?
As an Art Director I’m proud of the incredibly high level of visual detail and photorealism that we’re achieving on the PlayStation 4, and I’m glad that it’s appreciated by you too, but of course I’m also excited as a gamer by the prospect of playing with my friends in clubs and competing in challenge-based races that don’t purely focus on just beating everybody else.
The concept of DRIVECLUB is actually almost 10 years in the making; it’s just never been that feasible on any other console until now because of how socially connected it is with clubs and challenges. The PlayStation 4 doesn’t just raise the bar in terms of the staggering quality of the audio and visuals, it provides incredible opportunities for developers like us and we can’t wait to show you what we’re doing with it.
Finally revealing this to the world as part of the Sony PS4 unveiling was such a proud moment – and the response we’ve received so far has been astounding too. It makes all of the hard work worthwhile when you see how much people appreciate it.
Punk and Lizard would like to say a real huge thank you to Simon for his time. It’s a real privilege when such a talented person takes time out and speaks to a site like ours. Also a big thanks to Evolution Studios and SCEE for their kind help in making this happen.